Top Stories

Who will, and who should the USMNT start vs. Jamaica?


The Concacaf Gold Cup group stage was a learning experience for Gregg Berhalter’s young U.S. men’s national team squad, and the team’ 3-0 record would suggest the group passed some tests along the way.

With the knockout rounds up next, the USMNT will need to shift away from the learning portion of the tournament to the testing phase, and it will be pass-fail the rest of the way. For that reason, it is a good bet that Berhalter starts to shift toward his more experienced players.

Of course, there will be some new blood in the mix to start based on some impressive group stage showings. James Sands is at the top of the list, having made himself an indispensable starter after his group stage showings. Shaq Moore has also been one of the revelations of the Gold Cup, and Berhalter will have a tough decision to make between starting Moore and starting Reggie Cannon, who has recovered from the injury that kept him out of the USMNT’s first two Gold Cup matches.

Daryl Dike and Gianluca Busio had some impressive moments as well, but both struggled in the win against Canada, making it less certain that they will be in the starting lineup on Sunday against Jamaica. There is also some concern about whether Dike will be forced to withdraw after suffering a shoulder injury against Canada.

You also have some veterans who haven’t necessarily lit it up at the Gold Cup. Cristian Roldan had a good second half against Martinique, but had forgettable cameo against Canada, putting his chances of starting against Jamaica into question. Kellyn Acosta hasn’t quite maintained the high level he set at Nations League, but should still have a key role to play against Jamaica.

With all that in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Jamaica on Sunday, as well as the lineup we would deploy if we were making the final lineup decisions:

Projected USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Jamaica

SBI’s Preferred USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Jamaica


Who will start: Matt Turner

Who should start: Matt Turner

Not a big mystery at goalkeeper, where Turner has been solid in goal.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Reggie Cannon, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines

Who should start: Shaq Moore, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines

Sands and Robinson are locks to start in any scenario. It is at fullback where things get interesting.

Moore has had a solid Gold Cup, but if Berhalter is forced to go with a 4-3-3 it can be argued that Reggie Cannon is a better fit and better defender than Moore as a right fullback, whereas Moore was more adept at handling a right wingback deployment. Walker Zimmerman’s injury will likely force Berhalter to shelve the 5-3-2.

At left back, Sam Vines has been solid and has the experience edge on George Bello, who didn’t impress in his start against Martinique.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan, Kellyn Acosta

Who should start: Eryk Williamson, Kellyn Acosta, Gianluca Busio

Two players who are safe bets to start are Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta. The question is where will they be deployed?

Lletget has operated strictly as a midfielder at the Gold Cup, but he has played on the forward line in the past and is no stranger to being deployed on the wing. It is something Berhalter should consider as he deals with the absence of wide threats.

The safe bet for Berhalter is the Lletget-Roldan-Acosta midfield, with Acosta in a defensive midfield role. Berhalter knows this trio, and has used them in important matches before.

That being said, Roldan’s Gold Cup hasn’t been a memorable one, and as much as Busio struggled against Canada, he could find more success playing against a Jamaica side that doesn’t boast as strong a collection of central midfielders as the Canadians.

One player who has shown well in his Gold Cup appearances is Eryk Williamson, and he could help bring some defensive bite. Partnering Williamson with Acosta in front of Busio would give the midfield an edge that could serve the USMNT well against Jamaica.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI

Who will start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Nicholas Gioacchini

Who should start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Sebastian Lletget

Dike’s health status complicates things a bit because if he is healthy he will absolutely be in the mix to start.

Having said that, look for Zardes to step into his more familiar target striker role ahead of Dike in a 4-3-3. Zardes’ superior hold-up play gives him the edge, and he also has experience playing against Jamaica.

Hoppe has impressed every time he has been on the field, and why he isn’t the prototypical wide player, Hoppe has shown a liveliness and skill on the ball to be an effective wide forward option. The only doubt about him being a starter is whether there is a concern about his fitness and if he can give Berhalter 70+ minutes as a starter. Berhalter could decide that Hoppe is a better weapon off the bench, and start Lletget on the left wing.

Then you have the right forward spot, which could go to Nicholas Gioacchini, or Paul Arriola if he is recovered from the injury that has sidelined him since the opening win against Haiti. Gioacchini has been a lively threat in the opportunities he has been given, and could be a problem for Jamaica’s suspect defense.

If trying to maintain possession and dominate the ball is what Berhalter will ultimately be hoping for, then deploying Lletget as a wide forward would serve the dual purposes of giving the USMNT a player who can provide effective service from the wing, and also help free up a midfield spot for someone like Eryk Williamson to provide some added bite and creativity to midfield.

What do you think of our projected lineups? Which would you start? Who are you most excited to see play?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. The concacf is the biggest joke in the world. Qatar that bribed FIFA folks to get the world cup is dominating the Gold Cup. Did they bribe Concaf to get in as well. Their inclusion is a slap in the face to every member of our federation . Embarassing that the US is part of this. scam.

    • I’m sorry Alex, but the chance to play the host of the 2022 World Cup, with our ‘b’ team, that is a mouth watering matchup . It is an opportunity every fan should relish. You probably didn’t realize South Korea played in a gold cup as well, before the 2002 World Cup

  2. some lineup with an eye to thwart Jamaica’s counter, don’t let them get off there. the lineup that does that best? idk what it is, and GB has all week with the players to make it happen, and other things. Busio in that matchup seems a big ask, Acosta better suited imo at the 6 whatever the system(s) GB chooses. Somehow get both Shag and Reggie on the field together with Vines to go with Sands and Robinson…the matchup seems better for us with these players out there supporting the front line of 3 imo, lined up some way with Lletget, Roldan, Williamson (my choice to start) with Busio somewhere at some point later maybe further up field?

  3. If 4-3-3
    Hoppe, Zardes, Nico
    Lleget, Sands, Williamson
    Vines, Kessler, Robinson, Moore
    Turner. Subs- Busio (Zardes, Hoppe moves central), Acosta (Lleget), Cannon (Moore), Bello (Vines)
    If a 3-5-2
    Hoppe, Zardes
    Vines, Lleget, Acosta, Williamson, Moore
    Robinson, Sands, Cannon
    Turner subs- Nico (Zardes), Kessler (Moore, Cannon shifts to WB), Busio (Lleget)
    *Roldan, Yueill, Cowell get time if we have a 2 goal lead. Rest Dike for Kreis sake, save him for Semi & Finals. He has played the most matches in his life. You have to believe Kessler gives you more than Pines and pushes Robinson back to the right. Sands is the best 6 on this roster imo, rather see him in the midfield, now that Kessler is in. My favorite articles on SBI even though, I find it difficult to predict GBs lineup.

  4. i think you need to factor in some rotation if you want to limit injuries and have any freshness if we make the final. however i also think jamaica is likely better than either potential semi opponent. but we would have 3 games in 7 days — assuming — on players who may already have 2 starts and a sub on them.

  5. when interviewed, arena seemed to in a roundabout way critique his former assistant as too focused on analytics and not enough on player attributes. i say this because if moore is good at getting down the line and creating but — for the sake of argument — gets caught up….and we need a wing forward minus arriola……hmmmm. if you check his game logs he has 17 appearances and 1G 2A as a wing forward or mid. all the crossing with less of the vulnerability. if we run nico out there just because he has an “F” by his name, despite how haiti went, despite him having little wing chops, we’re not paying attention to player attributes.

    i have the same thought on dest and the other defense shy wings. push pulisic and reyna inside, put some of the “wingbacks” in as forwards, all upside, reduced downside, and then play some fullbacks who can actually mark.

    • did they ever officially do the player swaps? last i heard we had 2 new guys in camp but they’d not actually taken action to change the roster. i ask because if we have any other option than pines i would consider tinkering with sands.

      something like

      hoppe lletget acosta moore
      vines robinson kessler cannon

      • added comment on the roster swaps (or not). national teams do not usually carry injured players and take risks on healing, because you don’t want someone out for september because you pushed it now in a less important game. this is the general pattern of us soccer for years. you don’t mess with borderline. you shut them down to avoid any risk.

        this is not the world cup where you might spend a 23rd slot on someone rehabbing because they are awesome. this is gold cup. shut down everyone with an injury and call fresh people.

        making your swaps also has the virtue of being “emphatic” and “confident.” waiting on injury rehab and risking continuing to carry hurt players is kind of a timid approach. one hand, other hand, i don’t know, we’ll see. how about “commit” to either they are healthy enough or not, act, and set your game plan accordingly? i think the players — and particularly the ones affected by the swaps — will appreciate the confidence. “expect to play this weekend.” conversely if it’s unlikely zimmerman can get back in time, it only undermines potential replacements to have them thinking, oh, the coach likes me so little he won’t decide right now. if we likely have to play mexico without people, go ahead and commit.

  6. I like the SBI approach to the starting line-up. But as others have stated, a lot depends on who is available and in what condition. Mental toughness is also something that is factored in, when in a knockout situation. I will yield to the coaching staff on a game plan here. They’re in the best position to feel the pulse of the team, and who is generating the necessary confidence going forward.

    • the coaching staff is clueless, dude, ran out a crap lineup for haiti we will hopefully never see again, whooped up on bad martinique, but then got pinned on their own end for most of canada. the talent in the pool is good. we might have a little more than an XI of decent players on this team. but he botched the selection and his tactics seem more like let’s work around the roster i picked than like we scouted the opposition and came up with a game plan. i do think he eventually catches on but at a geological timescale. that might work in gold cup or a lengthy qualifying. that will not work in qatar. world cup you pull a clark selection and you can be done right there. and i wish he was goofing just one guy. you can’t take a year to catch on. ideally you show up for the tournament with 9-10 of the 11 down pat.

      • I couldn’t find any stories about any team changing players so I think either you have to wait or Concacaf is embargoing the information just as they did the roster releases.

  7. Reading through all of these comments, I’m kind of baffled about how much anyone cares about who starts up front. Dike? Zardes? Hoppe? Who cares? This is not what will keep us from winning. Not sure what games you guys have been watching, but our problems start in midfield and extend backwards. This. Team. Has. No. Spine. That is the problem we need to solve.

    • Oh, totally agree. Until the ball gets up there there’s no point even discussing who the forwards are.

      Williamson and Lletget are two that can complete passes and stay clean on the ball; Williamson in particular is by far our best rostered mid at the moment and we need to USE HIM. It’s gotta be bothering him watching this tournie from the bench. Busio showed a bunch against Martinique though his lightweight showing against Canada disturbed me. He definitely gets pushed off the ball way too easily. Still like to give him another runout against Jamaica and see if he steps up some; if he isn’t, we’ve got 5 subs, yank him after 45 and stick Acosta in but we know what Acosta’s ceiling is and I wouldn’t waste a start on him.

    • I think Hoppe could make a difference because he appears to have the skill to hold the ball. Neither Dike in a small sample size or Zardes in a large sample size have demonstrated that for national team.

    • Totally agree. I saw the guy on 11 Yanks guarantee that starting Hoppe up top would show immediate results. I think he misses the plot completely. If it continues to be mediocre midfielders like: Roldan, Yuell, and Lletget supporting our front line then I doubt Lewandowski himself could do much damage.

  8. Personally I’d start Hoppe, Dike, Zardes up top, Williamson, Lletget, and Busio as your mids, and Vines/Robinson/Sands/Moore as your defenders. You might as well; you’re here to serve youth and develop some folks, and those are the ones who have shown well, if not always consistently, right?

    Sink or swim, kids.

  9. Why is Zardes even in either lineup???? If Dike can’t go then go with Hoppe or Gioacchini at the CF over Zardes. I just don’t get why the media and the coach always puts this guy over better players at CF. Zardes should be either at wing or coming off the bench. I’m more worried about if Berkhalter stays with the 3 CBs cause we don’t have 3 good ones. Midfield a mess at whoever you put out there. Williamson should get a shot

  10. Do we know the status of Dike? That would make a difference in selection. If he’s good to go, Zardes moves to the outside. Hoppe over Gioachinni, as he has performed better in the GC. Hoppe has also had a week to build up his stamina to put in a longer shift.

    I can see Berhalter going with an all-veteran lineup of Lletget, Roldan and Acosta in midfield. Busio is skilled with loads of potential, but is still weaker than other options on defense, and is not yet physically strong enough in duel situations. Williamson didn’t see the field against Canada, so cannot see him getting the nod here.

    Moore/Cannon is almost a tossup at this point, but favor Moore, and he came to the GC to prove his selection to the squad. The rest of the defense is easy to pick. Kessler is just insurance or a late defensive sub.

    The curveball is really the selection of Cowell, and whether Berhalter activates him, or frankly, one of the DC United duo. If so, that may impact 2nd half tactics. Regardless, using the GC to blend in and assess the new talent just in practices is a big plus heading into WCQ in September.

    • The DCU players have been back with their club. They played over the weekend and on Wednesday. Paredes scored the game tying goal. They could rejoin obviously but I don’t think that’s being considered. Nyeman doesn’t play the position of one of the known injured players either.

      • It was a long shot that either DC United player would get the call for the knockout rounds. It was a step forward to at least bring in a couple more teenagers and practice with the team. I believe Friday is the deadline for roster changes, and no more injuries reported. Kessler is a certainty with Zimmerman out. What we don’t know just yet is whether Dike or Arriola is out.

  11. GB will have had a full week of training to see who looks better Dike or Zardes, Cannon or Moore and mull whether he wants a quicker midfield or one that is more physical if he goes with physical Busio will sit if he goes with quicker, Busio and Williamson will start. Unless something odd happens in training, Vines will start over Bello. Ariola vs Gioacchini vs Lleget vs Roldan is maybe the most complex decision up top. Hoppe, Sands, Robinson and Turner are almost locks to start, and Acosta probably will somewhere.

  12. I would go Hoppe-Zardes-Nico with midfield of Lleget-Acosta-Williamson. Back four of Vines-Robinson-Sands- and I don’t care between Reggie and Shaq.

    • I think you and Ives are on the right track… hope we see something like this. I like what you’ve got there although I do care- prefer Shaq over Cannon- particularly following the injury. Knowing GB likes to press- let Zardes high press run his lungs out and bring on Dike (if able) the 60th minute. I think he suffered from a lack of width/overcrowded middle, a lack of service and being asked to do something he hasn’t… high pressed the entire first half and gassed himself out. I’d also have Busio on the ready to come in 60th to spell Lletget. He and Williamson work really well together, create well and did a fantastic job killing off the match in possession v Haiti.


Leave a Comment